Local Cultural Councils in Massachusetts

OVERVIEW

Massachusetts General Laws (MGL) Chapter 10, Section 58 and 962 CMR 2.00 in the Code of Massachusetts Regulations outline provisions that govern the establishment and appointment of local and regional cultural councils. Each city and town in Massachusetts has a Local Cultural Council (LCC), which regrants money it receives from the MCC on an annual basis towards individuals and organizations that support the arts, humanities, and interpretive sciences in Massachusetts. The MCC obtains funds for the LCC program through the annual state appropriation process.

CONTEXT

Planning with Local Cultural Councils

Planners and top appointing officials in local government (ie. the mayor, city manager, board of selectmen, etc.) can help shape Local Cultural Councils through membership appointments, and through support for a larger mission beyond the regranting of funds provided by MCC. LCC’s can raise additional sources of funding, run independent programs, and can be involved in cultural planning activities, depending on the needs of their community.

Planners who are considering an initiative that could impact the arts and culture sector may seek out guidance and input from members of their Local Cultural Council, as they are meant to represent the field within each community.

See the examples section to learn more ways that the mission of an LCC can be adapted to suit the needs of each municipality.

PARTNERS

Who Sits on Local Cultural Councils?

Local Cultural Councils are managed by volunteers from the community who have an interest in and support the arts, humanities, and/or interpretive sciences. Find your Local Cultural Council here.

LCC's maintain between 5 and 22 members. Each member is appointed to a three year term by their municipality's highest appointing official. To ensure continuous and steady turnover, members can serve for two consecutive terms and then they must take a break before being eligible to serve again.

FUNDING

Where Do the LCC's Get Their Funds?

LCC's receive their funding through a direct allocation by the Mass Cultural Council, which is funded by appropriations from the state Legislature and from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The amount of annual funding that is allocated to each LCC for regranting is determined through a local aid formula, which is based on population and equalized property values in order to ensure an equitable distribution of resources and relatively larger allocations to low-income communities. There is no cash match required of municipalities in order to receive the annual allocation from the MCC. LCCs are required to disburse funds received from the MCC on an annual basis. Municipalities are notified about their allocations in late August and awards must be made by December 30th, with funds transferred from state to local accounts by mid-January of the following calendar year.

In addition to the 329 Local Cultural Councils in the state of Massachusetts, there are also 9 Regional Councils which allow smaller towns to join together and/or with a larger town or city in order to make their allocations go further. Municipalities pursuing the establishment of a regional cultural council must designate one municipality to serve as a fiscal agent. Regional consortia must be approved by the MCC.

PROCESS

How are Funds Distributed?

Each year LCC's open a round of applications for grant funding. While each LCC administers their own application process, all applications across the state must be submitted online by October 15th (or if that's on a weekend or holiday, the Monday thereafter). Decisions by the LCC's are due to the Mass Cultural Council on January 15th, and LCC's are encouraged to communicate with all applicants by February.

Learn more about the application process here.

SUCCESSES

LCC's with Different Models

No two LCCs are the same. Each LCC varies according to the experience and skills of its members, administrative structure and capacity, and local assets and priorities. The key factor that distinguishes LCCs from each other is administrative structure and capacity – some are staffed, but most are volunteer run. Below you can find examples of LCCs whose approaches to promoting local cultural life reflect different administrative models and priorities.

Medford:

The Medford Art Council (MAC) supports cultural programing and initiatives that support the creative economy and increase access to local cultural assets. The volunteer run, eight-member MAC grants funds to community members and cultural organizations and sponsors public arts and humanities initiatives. In 2020, the MAC received $27,500 from the Mass Cultural Council to support its grant programs, and $60,000 from the City of Medford to support free or low-cost public events and programming.

The Council’s core activities include cultural programming and displays that enhance Medford’s squares and business districts, including Arts Across Medford festival, Circle the Square, and West Medford Open Studios, as well as temporary and permanent public art projects in public, open spaces, such as parks, municipal buildings, or neighborhood squares. Recent public art projects include utility box mini-murals and Mystic Musical Fence.

Cambridge:

Founded in 1974, the Cambridge Arts Council (CAC) is one of the oldest arts agencies in the country. Like many LCCs, the CAC funds, sponsors, and presents community-based arts programming. With a paid staff of six, the CAC oversees a wide array of programs, including:

  • Cambridge River Festival and other cultural programming in parks and open spaces;
  • Cambridge Open Studios, the Street Performer Program, and other initiatives that connect local audiences and artists;
  • Public Art Program, which supports the development of site-responsive public artwork in municipal construction projects and Gallery 334, a municipally run art gallery; and
  • Grants Program that supports community-based art projects in all artistic disciplines.

In addition to an annual allocation from MCC, Cambridge Arts receives funding from the City of Cambridge, the National Endowment for the Arts, private foundations, corporate sponsors, and individual donors.

Easthampton:

Unlike many LCCs, the Easthampton Cultural Council does not curate, present, or commission cultural programming and public artworks. Instead, the Council leverages strategic communications, outreach, and capacity-building to connect the local cultural community with Cultural Council funding opportunities. To support its awareness raising and outreach efforts, the Council maintains community partnerships with local organizations and businesses that contribute to Easthampton’s cultural life. Partners include restaurants, bars, and breweries; a creative live/work development in a converted mill building; and Easthampton City Arts (ECA), an initiative of the City of Easthampton that commissions, presents, and supports publicly accessible cultural programming and events. The Easthampton Cultural Council’s all volunteer, nine-member board includes an elected chair, secretary and treasurer, and all members are appointed by the Mayor of the City of Easthampton.

Learn More

A resource guide for Local Cultural Councils complete with important dates, podcasts from peers, and further information about the program.

References